Qing, Xiyue



Scene Title Qing, Xiyue
Synopsis Chess takes a calculated risk.
Date January 1st, 2019

Ferrymen's Bay

Surprised to see the chain and lock still in place from where she’d left them so many months ago, Chess tries to spin the dial to the numbers of the combination she’d set, only to find the lock frozen — it’s no wonder, really, since there’s nothing to keep the snow and rain from falling on the warehouse door. She holds the lock in her hands for a moment, then lets it go — a few seconds later, there’s a small, contained explosion and the metal and plastic pieces fall to the floor. She grabs the chain and slides it into her courier bag, before heading into the warehouse, then pulling out another lock to chain the door closed from within.

It’s as she left it, though a leak in the roof has made a large puddle in one corner, and time away has done nothing to erase the scent of years worth of squatters’ urine from before she found the place so many months ago. The trash barrel she used for a fire still stands in one corner, and with the cracked windows and leaky roof, she’s in no danger of smoke inhalation. It doesn’t take more than a moment to light the fire.

The old mattress seems dry enough, though Chess gives it a kick with the toe of her boot to make sure there’s nothing living in there. When nothing goes scurrying, she drops down on it before setting her bag beside her and carefully pulling out what she’s come here for — the glowing blue syringe of the Refrain she’d taken from Eve.

TS Eliot wrote that April is the cruellest month. For Chess, it’s January, and has been for the past five years now.

Chess carefully lays out on the mattress in front of her the dog-eared, yellow-paged Kant book along with the only picture she has of Miles left, his senior portrait in a plastic keychain that’s scratched and cracked. A tear slides down her cheek already. A shaking hand reaches for the syringe. She knows he wouldn’t approve of this — but he isn’t the one who has to live without her, another voice in her head answers, as she presses down and releases that blue liquid into her arm.

One moment it is suffocatingly dark and silent.

The next moment the sky is alight with the streaking plumes of fire and smoke from battery-launched missiles.

The rockets scream through the air, launched from a dozen batteries situated on a barren hill. The trail of fire and smoke from the missiles illuminates the hillside, illuminates vehicles and rows of soldiers moving into position. One by one the missiles strike another hillside less than a half mile away, the ground shakes, Chess' body vibrates with the concussive force of the blasts. Flames, earth, smoke, all rise up into the air. Then, under the cover of darkness, the gunfire starts.

Coming from the west over a hill, a platoon of infantrymen. They lead off with several RPG rounds that strike the missile batteries. People are screaming, there's gunfire exchanging on all sides. Flood lights are coming on, popping loudly as they cast scalding illumination across the cold frost-glittering hills. Chess can see Mitchell's forces moving in a desperate pincer attack. There's a whining roar of a jet engine in the air as a vessel streaks overhead, laying down a line of fire across the ambush. People are cut down row after row.

Raven Rock is on fire in the dis—


Chess' brows pinch together, eyes wrench shut, fingers curl against her palms.

Not that.

Tears well up in her eyes, every movement one of struggle and resistance.

Anything but that.

The kinetic charge on a throwing knife detonates against one of the infantrymen desperately trying to stop the batteries. The blast tears him apart with such ferocity that he simply stops being where he was. Pieces of him made so small and scattered so far its as if Chess just denied that he was ever there at all. There's more gunfire, all around now, her ears are ringing. They'd snuck up on the batteries, the Resistance had gotten cocky in the final hours. They didn't expect a suicide rush.


More gunfire, this time Chess feels a sharp pain in her leg. She should feel more, except she's been struck bodily by another soldier. She falls to the side, then falls forever and lands o far away from the battle that the sounds of explosions, gunfi—


- and jet engines feels distant. It's dark here, on another sparsely wooded hill under spotty moonlight, so cold that their breath is showing as silvery gouts of steam. Miles stares in Chess' eyes, arms around her waist, brows raised in worry. "Chessie—


Muffled voices echo mutedly.

Chess' racing pulse slows, her breathing — sharp and shallow — begins to normalize.

"Women yao kuai dian," is said clipped into the darkness in shaky Mandarin. Not a native speaker.

We have to hurry?

"We need to take them all," another voice hurriedly whispers.

"Mei shijian." Clipped again, but a third voice, this one a native speaker. "Xuan yige."

No time? Chess' chest flutters. Choose one?

It’s like a dream caught between sleep and wakefulness in the pre-dawn grayness — when a person can almost will themselves back to sleep, to choose to block out the morning light and chase that darkness for a few more moments. To slide back into the dreamsleep and avoid reality.

But this is memory, not dream. Still, part of Chess knows this is a memory she doesn’t know, long forgotten and somehow encoded in the recesses of her mind. The kind of memory only hypnosis or, well, Refrain can pull from the shadowy cobwebs.

That, and she’s stubborn — she’s not ready to wake empty handed, without something to make this stupid choice of hers worth the risk. She tosses one way, then the other, away from the light coming through the cracked windows from a street lamp outside. She chases the darkness, her doped mind trying to cling to something — the women’s voices. Their faces. Their scents.

A noise floods clear. A siren. Barking. Screaming. Wailing. A baby crying.

Chess’ feels her chest tighten, heart racing, pulse throbbing in her neck. Panic.

Bright lights, a firm and warm embrace, shoes striking tile, shouts, screams.

Her breaths come in short, sharp gasps.


Chess’ eyes snap open, not seeing the world around her but rather the memory of the world as it was. Blue light flickers like candlelight in her pupils, reflecting off of the inside of her eyes. Her fingers curl against her palm. Helplessness Sinks bone deep.

Glass shattering. Shouts. A scream. Silence.

A blurry, dark shape lingers in her vision. A face. A silhouette. A person she does not recognize. Chess’ body trembles, sweat beads on her brow and cheeks, fingertips prickling, face flushed. Terror.

A gentle shushing, a warm palm on a cool cheek. “Wo you ni,” the woman says shakily, as if she isn't sure how true it is.

I've got you?

Weightlessness, a sensation of falling, but also a tight embrace. There's a feeling of comfort, warmth, and security. But there's also a feeling of pain, of disorientation, and sadness.

It's fading. Chess can feel the bad trip ending, the panic spike diminishing, her pulse leveling out. But someone is talking, hurried, fearful.

“We have to go.” So much fear. “Right now!

The voices are like whispers now, barely audible, the blue glow flickering to fade.

“We have to go!” Again. “Qing, Xiyue.”


Chess’ eyes roll back in her head.


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